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The Smart Train to American Recovery (STAR): A Proposal We Need for Today’s Crisis

Today we begin a campaign to provide career advisory services and training to 25,000 dislocated workers impacted by the Covid19 pandemic. Our initiative is called STAR, the acronym stands for Smart Train to American Recovery. Like the crisis we have faced at other points in 20th century American history, 1918, 1929 and 1945, we are living during a pivotal point in our 21st century history. According to Brookings, and despite enormous federal government intervention we are expecting “the deepest global recession since World War II, with global GDP contracting by 5.2 percent.” Poverty is expected to spike worldwide to levels we have not seen since the last century.[1] There is no sugarcoating this --we are looking at 20.5 million unemployed (14.7 percent) the worst devastation since the Great Depression.

Whether or not we find vaccines or therapeutics to diminish the potency of the Covid19 epidemic by the new year the impact of the economic disruption is projected to continue for decades. The value of being at a turning point is that we must work with the knowledge that we cannot go back to the old ways. Dislocated workers from retail, hospitality, travel and numerous other industries must pivot to in-demand careers but for many this is easier said than done. Our existing workforce systems are overwhelmed with individuals waiting in long lines, websites crashing and access to career counselors out of reach. South Carolina experienced an unprecedented increase in the filing of Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims. In the week ending March 21, 2020, 31,054 intrastate unemployment insurance claims were filed, an increase of approximately 1600% from the previous week’s count of 1,996 and 772 interstate claims were filed, an increase of approximately 800% from the previous week’s count of 97. The most current data available indicates that for the week ending April 11, 2020, 87,686 initial claims were filed, an increase of 4,293.09% from the week ending March 14, 2020 (SC Works). The statistics from South Carolina reflect the experiences of most states throughout the country.

Many are simply unsure of how to navigate their way out of the dire situation they find themselves in and our existing workforce and unemployment safety nets were simply not built for today’s crisis. The STAR campaign is launched with this context and is designed to focus on three key tenets:

1. Expand Access to Workforce / Unemployment Services: Our immediate focus is partnering with 100 local faith-based and community-based organizations throughout the country to create satellite access points to assist dislocated workers that require more intensive in-person support and access to broadband/technology; particularly in rural communities.
2. Career Advisory Services: KP’s Talent advisors represent individuals that possess deep industry expertise, a passion for training and learning and are trained to identify non-traditional career pathways that minimize the out-of-pocket expense required to successfully pivot to an in-demand career field. STAR Navigators, a virtual concierge service, will help direct the individuals that participate in our services with support in identifying various resources within the individual’s local community.
3. Training / Certification for In-Demand Careers: The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the US Department of Labor each have funding to support training for in-demand careers. Our firm is providing direct training leading to an industry certification in Cybersecurity, Healthcare, Project Management and Media Production. We will continue to expand these offerings as we partner with employers that have a growing workforce demand within these fields.

We begin this journey at a time of great crisis for our country and knowing that we need many partners in our struggle. Let’s join forces and focus on how we can collectively band together to ensure that no one is left behind as the Smart Train to American Recovery leaves the station.